CHESTER, PA. — Atlanta United will come to town next weekend even on points with the Philadelphia Union at the top of the Eastern Conference standings after the Union rode a strong first half to a 3-1 win over D.C. United on Saturday night.
Playing in front of dozens of former players invited back for the team’s first alumni night and a sellout crowd, the Union attack came out flying with good movement through the midfield and it quickly led to a goal in the fifth minute when Kacper Przybylko redirected a perfectly hit cross from Kai Wagner.
Aaronson, playing as a left winger in a 4-2-3-1, was credited with a secondary assist on the opening goal and doubled the lead 10 minutes later with his first goal since his first team debut in March when he received a pass from Przybylko and beat Bill Hamid to his right with a left-footed strike.
Przybylko’s impressive display of footwork and passing vision came into play once more in the 36th minute when he fed Ilsinho the ball and the Brazilian weaved his way through the box and fired the Union into a 3-0 lead.
Chances continued to come before the break, but the Union went into the locker room with the crowd buzzing and the alumni awaiting their chance to be honored at midfield during halftime.
That momentum crashed a bit in the second half as D.C. United started to find the game and create space and chances for themselves. After being so clinical with their passing in the first half, the Union wasn’t as sharp or aggressive going forward with the three-goal lead.
When Luciana Acosta pulled a goal back for the visitors it wasn’t a complete surprise as the momentum was shifting in that direction but Acosta was given way too much time on the ball and a poor touch in the box gave him the ball back and his sixth goal of the season. D.C. United threatened to make it 3-2 in the 68th minute when Acosta played a ball into the box for substitute Quincy Amarikwa. His shot was deflected out by Andre Blake for a corner in what ended up being the most difficult of his three saves on the evening.
Things the rest of the way were mostly quiet but a soft yellow shown to Alejandro Bedoya in the 73rd minute for a foul near the 18 has an impact on next weekend as Bedoya will now have to serve a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Jack Elliott was outstanding on the back line with five interceptions, six clearances and a blocked shot, according to WhoScored.com. Elliott paired with Mark McKenzie, who had a good showing in his first appearance since April and first start since last year’s playoffs.
Curtin’s decision to go with the 4-2-3-1 formation over the preferred 4-4-2 ended — putting Aaronson back in the lineup and starting super sub Ilsinho — ended up proving the right call and the Union again bounced back with a win after a loss (their back to back losses to start the season remain their only consecutive losses in 2019).
Marco Fabian just missed a bid for a goal after coming off the bench for Ilsinho and D.C. was gifted a dangerous free kick for a bogus foul called against Ray Gaddis but beyond that Curtin’s subs also did the job — Fafa Picault and Warren Creavalle also came on — to close out the game and complete the season sweep of D.C. United.
Up next, Atlanta United comes to town next Saturday night for what could arguably be the biggest game of the season to date for the Philadelphia Union.